Three deputy sheriffs who were instrumental in the capture of Colorado accused murderer Evan Ebel last March received medals of valor Friday from Sheriff David Walker at the annual department appreciation banquet at the Decatur Civic Center.
Plaques were presented to Lt. Art Ferguson, Sgt. Cavin Riggs and deputy Chris Hodges. A bullet fired by Ebel narrowly missed Ferguson, crashing into his patrol vehicle and lodging in the headrest of the driver’s seat.
Another valor medal was presented to Cpl. Steven Yancey, who was involved in a shooting incident in October. In that case, Yancey answered a disturbance call and was met by a man with a gun aimed at him. Yancey ordered the man to drop the gun and when he didn’t, he shot and wounded the assailant. It was later determined the man was armed with a BB rifle.
“All of these incidents show that our training pays off,” Walker said.
The Bo Wright Memorial “Riding for the Brand” award went to longtime Chief Deputy Doug Whitehead, a sheriff’s deputy for more than 30 years. The award was presented to Whitehead by Walker, Wright’s widow and two sons.
Whitehead, who had serious health issues last year, is confined to a motorized wheelchair now but comes to work daily.
“He is someone who has touched every single one of you,” Walker said of Whitehead.
Walker, Whitehead and Captain Kevin Benton presented a special award to Assistant District Attorney Tim Cole, whom Walker said would soon be leaving the district attorney’s office to return to private practice.
The award surprised Cole.
“It means a lot to me to get this from this group,” he said. “This is the finest police organization that I have ever seen with some of the greatest people in law enforcement.”
He singled out Benton, whom he described as the “very best police officer I have ever known.”
The department’s “Above and Beyond” award was given to deputy Heinrich Downes for his work in the area of information technology, crime scene investigation and as a sponsor for the department’s 33 Explorer Scouts.
Several “of the year” awards were also presented including:
- David Byrne, jailer;
- Ricky Mitchell, rookie jailer;
- Courtney Stephens, above and beyond jailer;
- Zack Brysen, communications;
- Chad Hightower, support services;
- Sherry Hartfield, animal shelter, and
- Carolyn Copeland and Mike Neagle, criminal investigators.
Benton said the criminal investigation clearance rate of Copeland and Neagle was twice the national average.
Jason McCall received the Judge W.A. Hughes Deputy of the Year award, and the Rook Ramsey Patrol Deputy of the Year award went to Cpl. Steven Yancey.
Several humorous awards were also presented to deputies who had “goofed up” during the year. Two deputies, Eric Copeland and Robert Sparks, who were involved in patrol vehicle accidents hitting trees, received miniature trees from Capt. Benton.
The traditional Barney Fife Awards were presented to Nathan Graves and Chris Hodges.
Randy Eyster received a 15-year award while “20-year plus” awards were presented to Debbie Denny, Neagle, Whitehead and Walker.